After three well-received indie albums, Santa Barbara-based pop-punks the Ataris recently released their major-label debut, ”so long, astoria” (Columbia). Inspired by their top 20 single, ”In This Diary,” EW kept its own diary of a day with the Ataris as they made an in-store appearance at Looney Tunes in West Babylon, N.Y., last month.
9:30 a.m. I arrive at Manhattan’s Radisson Hotel. Scouting for rock dudes, I spot tour manager Mike ”Bofunk” Beauchamp, who says, ”We should be leaving by 10 o’clock.”
10:30 a.m. The Ataris (frontman-guitarist Kris Roe, 26, bassist Mike Davenport, 29, guitarist John Collura, 29, and drummer Chris Knapp, 30) pile into a van. I sit next to Roe, who defends the band’s move to a major: ”Punk is not an elitist art form. I want everyone to hear our music.”
11:05 a.m. Talk turns to Roe’s early years in a small Indiana town. He was a musical obsessive who absorbed everything from David Bowie to Black Flag. Roe says the songs on ”astoria” were inspired by punk legend Richard Hell’s novel, ”Go Now”: ”[Hell writes that] memories are better than life. He talks about how he tries to tailor each moment to make the best memory. That really describes how this band thinks.”
11:28 a.m. We arrive at Looney Tunes to find roughly 250 distressingly well-behaved fans.
12:02 p.m. The Ataris launch into their 20-minute set of short, sharp tunes. For the finale, ”San Dimas High School Football Rules,” Roe hands his ax to a guy named John, who bashes out chords and grins like a loon while the singer leaps over a shelf of CDs into the crowd. Gimme danger!
12:30 p.m. I strike up a conversation with Babylon High School senior Lyz Wyllie, who’s waiting to buy ”astoria.” ”I trust them to put out something awesome,” she says.
1:00 p.m. The Ataris begin signing CDs, T-shirts, flesh, a guitar or two.
1:55 p.m. Collura joins Bofunk and me outside for a smoke. He’s accompanied by Phil Thomas, the singer with Collura’s former group, Beefcake. ”They were the shortest band in the world,” asserts the mischievous Bofunk, alluding to the diminutive stature of both men. Collura glares at him.
2:50 p.m. The Ataris sign their last autograph as the Clash’s ”White Riot” booms over the sound system.
3:37 p.m. On the way home, Davenport sings the Ramones’ ”Rockaway Beach.” This reminds me that we’ll probably pass Astoria, Queens, which I’d hoped to point out to the guys (although the Astoria in their album’s title is actually in Oregon). Somehow, I fail to spot it. Oh, well. So long, Astoria. And goodbye, Babylon.